Rija Rajkumar was the 11-year-old victim of a family kidnapping by her father Roopesh Rajkumar. He picked up Rija to celebrate her birthday; hours later, Roopesh allegedly contacted Rija’s mother—the couple are separated—making statements of plans to harm himself and their daughter. She immediately contacted authorities, and a subsequent Amber Alert search was initiated 11:30 pm the same day. It took an hour to locate Rija, and a little longer to pinpoint her father, who was 130 kilometres away in Orillia, and arrest him. Her lifeless body was located in the basement of her Roopesh’s duplex in Brampton. He’s facing a charge of first-degree murder while currently undergoing medical treatment for an unspecified condition.
It was a horrible loss of life on what was supposed to be a happy day for the victim. While we can’t turn back time to revive Rija, we can at least provide justice and treatment to her unstable father. The arrest was only possible thanks to the Amber Alert issued that night, according to Peel Regional Police.
The gratitude given to the alert system’s vital role in locating the suspect however, was mixed in with multiple complaints by residents of the late night disturbance it caused. Indeed, of the 124 calls received by the 911 emergency hotline during the first hour of the Amber Alert, most were complaints by people whose sleep was disturbed.
Peel Constable Akhil Mooken tweeted his frustration towards this incidence, stating, “I can’t even begin to describe how disappointing and upsetting it is to read the comments, emails and calls to our communications bureau complaining about receiving an Amber Alert late at night. I appreciate that a lot of people were sleeping but the immediate need to locate […] the child outweighed the momentary inconvenience that some people encountered. Tragically this incident did not have the outcome we were all hoping for but the suspect was located as a direct result of a citizen receiving the alert and calling 9-1-1. The system works.”
Most agreed with this sentiment. Some noted that if the complainants were in the same situation as Rija’s mother, they would have wanted the same done for their children. Others shared the feelings of loss and grief given the loss of life, while many more expressed their gratitude for both the alert system as well as the constable for his efforts.
An interesting comment by twitter user @shikkaba noted that some of the complaints were about the timing and closure of the alert, claiming that it wasn’t sent out early enough. Furthermore, the twitter user claims that “letting people know it's over doesn't require "yelling" at them. A different tone at a lower volume would be better suited to that task, or just a message.”
Like most people in the GTA, I received a loud, and frankly terrifying, alert on my phone. I was not asleep at the time, but even in that case I think I would’ve been fine with the noise if it was for the sake of saving a life. I’m disappointed as to the number of complaints (which could have been shared through the non-emergency line), reinforcing the stereotype of apathy and lack of community spirit of urban residents. While obviously not true—with the suspect having been caught through the Amber Alert—I do hope we can move forward from this tragedy with greater concern for our neighbours and fellow residents in the city.